Daniel-Wayne Barber/Part 20
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|So often when you get into a book like Daniel you want to jump to the prophetic things and you overlook such rich truths that are in between. And what we’re going to look at this morning is a prayer of Daniel; a prayer that he prays for his people.|
What Do You Pray When You Suffer from Someone Else’s Sin (Daniel 9:1-19)
Turn with me to Daniel 9. Of course we’re getting into that chapter where we’re talking about the 70 weeks and I know everybody is excited to hear about that, but you’ll just have to wait a week, because it comes at the last part of the chapter. So often when you get into a book like Daniel you want to jump to the prophetic things and you overlook such rich truths that are in between. And what we’re going to look at this morning is a prayer of Daniel; a prayer that he prays for his people. And I’d like to entitle the message “What Do You Pray When You Are Suffering the Consequences of Somebody Else’s Sin?”
And you say, “I appreciate you title, where are you coming from?” Let me see if I can get you into the mindset that I have this morning. The book of Daniel has very clearly told us why God allowed Nebuchadnezzar and other pagan kings to just have their way with His people. In chapter 8:12 as we see in the future, it seems to form a pattern. In the future, hundreds of years after this was prophesied, there was going to be a man to come on the scene by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes, and this man was going to bring great terror and great trial to Israel, God’s people. Why? Why would God allow this to happen?
Well, in verse 12 it says, “And on account of the transgression the host will be given over to the horn,” the small horn; he’s talking about Antiochus Epiphanes, not the little horn of chapter 7, “along with the regular sacrifice.” You see, Israel had rejected God. Now we know from studying the history of Israel how they were the twelve sons of Jacob who had his name changed to Israel, how they had split. They had a civil war basically. The ten tribes to the north kept the name of Israel, the two tribes to the south were called Judah, and both of them continued to disobey and forsake God. Israel had long since been overtaken by Assyria and dispersed into other lands. Now we see Judah and Judah continually forsook God as a nation. As a result there is a consequence, folks, to forsaking God: God’s judgment fell upon them. God had told them exactly what would happen and it happened.
And so we see a nation then under the consequence of sin. But there’s something to remember: it’s one thing to single out a nation as a whole and to see as a whole they have rejected God. But remember this: God has always had a remnant. He had a remnant in Israel to the north; He had a remnant in Judah to the south. And here we see Daniel, a part of a whole. It’s not his sin that has caused their captivity in Babylon. Now certainly he had sinned, obviously, just because he lied to his mother doesn’t mean God put the whole nation in captivity. That’s not what we’re dealing with here. The sin of the nation was forsaking God. Daniel, as a sinner like anybody else, was a part of that, but he wasn’t one who had forsook God in his life. So he was a remnant that was a part of a whole. And as a result of the whole, the nation forsaking God, he, a godly man, had to bear the consequence of the nation’s sin. Do you see the picture?
What do you do when you’re in a situation like that? Here’s a man who at 15 years old had predetermined in his heart he would not defile himself: he would honor God at all cost. Jerked out of his homeland and for 60-some years now he’s been in captivity in a pagan land. How does he feel about it? Put yourself into his shoes. What does he think about when he wakes up in the morning? Is he bitter? Is he mad? Is it somebody else’s problem? Does he want to cast stones? Oh friend, if you can grasp the prayer of Daniel in chapter 9, it will so change your whole life.
I wonder who is here that is suffering the consequences of somebody else’s sin. I think generally we could all say that in our country it has certainly forsaken God. We don’t have religious freedom in our nation, we have religious toleration. We all know that. And it’s just a matter of time to when the fuse is going to get shorter and shorter to where we’re going to deal with some hard times in this country. I believe that as much as I’m breathing right now. So we could say then, you could say in your heart and I could say in my heart, “I haven’t rejected You, God. How come I have to go through all the consequences of somebody else’s sin?” We’re generally in that boat this morning.
But not only that, I wonder if you’re in a marriage situation this morning and you’ve never rejected God in your life, you love the Lord Jesus, and your spouse, whether it be your husband or your wife, that person has walked away from God and tremendous consequences have come upon your family because of one or the other’s rejection of God. And you have to bear that same rejection; you have to bear that same consequence that has come from that rejection. Maybe you’re in a job situation some place and you’re in the same boat. You know, I’ve always felt sorry for the sailors in the boat that Jonah got in. For some reason, now they weren’t bothering anybody, man they just went to work one day and happened to be that they had a man on there that had rejected God and because of that and he forsook the commandment of God, man, they had to reap a great consequence that really wasn’t their fault: it was his fault.
Now, what do you do when you’re suffering the consequences of somebody else’s sin? Well, we’re going to see, hopefully, in Daniel, how he deals with this. How should we as citizens of this country deal with the obvious apathy of our nation toward God? Obvious rejection of God in every arena practically that we can look at: how should we react, how should we respond, how should we pray?
Well, verses 1-2 begin our setting. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” That’s incredible. Daniel is having his quiet time. You see Daniel praying a lot and now he’s in the Word. He’s in the books of a contemporary prophet of his named Jeremiah. See, Jeremiah prophesied at the same time. Isn’t it interesting that Hebrews tells us that the prophets of old prophesied in part and in portion? In other words, none of them had the complete message. Each one of them had a part of the message and most of them did not understand the fullness of that message. And so here we see Daniel leaning over on another prophet, Jeremiah, his contemporary, and reading his word, reading what he has said.
And he sees in the book of Jeremiah, he sees that they are to return back to their homeland in 70 years. Seventy years was the appointed time for Judah to come back to their homeland; they’ve been out of their land for almost that time. Now this is in the first year of Darius, which would make that around 538 or 539 BC, so therefore Daniel has been there for 67 years. And only three more years until his people were to go back home. And look what he does in verse 3, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”
Now something happened, something stimulated him as he was in the writings of Jeremiah. You see, the word for prayer there means to intercede, and the word for supplication translated means to plea for mercy. So he saw something, maybe from what Jeremiah talked about. Not just the 70 years, but Jeremiah very clearly brings out in his book why the people were in captivity and he understands that because of forsaking God during captivity—and my gut feeling on this thing is that when he was studying it he began to look around him and realize that Israel had not yet repented. None of them had turned back to God. He knew that in his heart and he knew that in three years they were going back to their homelands, and he begins all of a sudden to intercede for his people and to plea for mercy.
The last part of verse 3 says that he fasted, put on sackcloth and ashes, and that was their way of humbling themselves before God, preparing themselves for a vigil of intercessory prayer as he seeks God to plea for mercy. Isn’t it interesting how many people who are in situations where they are suffering the consequences of somebody else’s sin never even really think to pray except for themselves? They end up bitter, they end up throwing stones, and they end up thinking they deserve something, but I want you to see the humility of Daniel as he sees the problem. He’s a godly man, he has not forsaken God, but he sees his nation has forsaken God, so therefore he prays, and look how he prays! That’s what we want to look at this morning is his prayers.
He begins by showing his great respect for God
First of all in his prayer he begins by showing his great respect for God. He understands that God is a God that can be trusted. Now look in verse 4, “And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments….’” Now the word used for God there is a beautiful word. It is the word Yahweh, and among other things that it means, it also refers to the fact that He’s a personal God. Isn’t that incredible?
Daniel, seeing the problem, knows that his God is not unapproachable and so he approaches Him as a personal God. He’s understood this for a long time. We saw this in chapter 6: he’d been praying at morning, noon, and night for a long time. He knew he could approach his God; he knew his God was as concerned and much more concerned that he was toward the situation. So he turns to Him and he says, “Alas, O Lord,” Yahweh, the God that is a personal God.
Well, Daniel trusted Him and you know something that struck me is our prayers reflect the measure of our trust toward God. Listen to yourself pray the next time you pray. Listen to what you’re praying for. Listen to the time you spend acknowledging the God that you really do trust Him. You don’t particularly like the situation that you’re in, but “God, I trust You, I trust You. You’re a personal God. And I know, God, that You’re concerned about me in the midst of the situation.” Listen to what you’re praying. Are you praying that way? You see, you verbalize what your heart attitude is. And as he prayed he showed his great trust that God does care about him.
But as he prays you see the integrity of his trust, and there are two things he brings out in verse 4. First of all, he knew that God’s greatness must be respected. He says in verse 4, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God.” Just looking up those two words, “great” and “awesome,” you get the idea of just so magnanimous, I mean, He’s so big. And I think what Daniel is saying is, “O God, thank You that You’re a caring God, thank You that You’re concerned about this situation, and, God, thank You that You’ve revealed in my heart You’re so much bigger than this situation. You’re so much bigger than this problem we’re going through.” He respects the greatness of God.
And then secondly he understands the faithfulness of God. Look what he says, “who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Do you understand that Daniel understood that God was a faithful God, faithful to His covenants? Now, folks, all of us have been unfaithful at one time or not, but we know that God is faithful. Is that correct? You know, before he even gets into his prayer and his request that he’s going to make in a few moments, before he ever gets there he makes sure that he has verbalized before the Lord in blessing Him, that he understands that God is in control and that whatever God does is right, His character is impeccable, and the fact that He is a God of loving kindness, even in the midst of judgment there is loving kindness. That’s an incredible thing.
Now, folks, if you’re in a bad situation this morning and you have not initiated that and somebody else has sin in your particular perspective and the sphere of your life and you have to live under that consequence. Remember something: whatever that consequence is and God has allowed it, God is a faithful God. Don’t blame Him. Whatever God does is just, whatever consequence that is there is right. Don’t ever think anything else. God’s character must be respected. We don’t even have to defend it: it defends itself.
And so he comes before God and says, “God, I look around me and I see all these people forsaking You and I see the tragedy that we’re in because of it, but God, I know that You’re a righteous God and in the midst of Your judgment there is that covenant-loving kindness to those who love You and to those who obey You.”
Remember the one who prayed in the Old Testament? He said, “God, in wrath remember mercy.” Isn’t that precious? Even in God’s judgment. You know, if old Jonah could have understood this about God, that whatever God does is righteous and just, if he could have understood that he would have hurried over to Nineveh. But he didn’t want to go because Hosea and Amos had already prophesied that Nineveh and the Assyrians were going to take Israel captive. And he didn’t want to be a part of a revival to a pagan nation that was going to take his own people captive. And he couldn’t even see the fact that God’s mercy was way ahead of Jonah. God was bringing revival to the people that were going to take his own people captive. And only eternity will show how God’s loving kindness was way ahead of even His judgment with the people that He loved.
So, folks, listen, the first thing you don’t want to do if you’re in a situation like that is lose sight of the fact of who God is. That He’s bigger than your problem, that He’s a personal God. He is concerned about you, but whatever is going on, don’t you ever blame God. Don’t you dare. He’s a righteous God and not only is He righteous, if you’ll look a little closer you’re going to even see His loving kindness in the midst of His judgment.
So we see then Daniel praying. So God can be trusted, His stature is immense, bigger than our circumstance, His character is merciful. As a matter of fact, if you want to see God’s real heart during the time of Israel’s captivity, look in Jeremiah 29. Several of you have come to me with this verse and I don’t know why I haven’t brought it out before now. Jeremiah 29:11, do you want to see the heart of God? Here He is judging His people. Took them out of their land and gave them over to pagan kings. But look at His heart and look at His purpose in their life. Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” Isn’t that great? “I’ve got plans for you.” “You’re kidding; we’re in captivity because we’ve sinned against You.” “I know you are, but I still love you. You are My children, you are My covenant people.” Boy, that just blesses me.
Sometimes when I blow in royally and my wife and family have to suffer the consequences of me making dumb choices, I’m so glad God doesn’t throw me away. I may have to go through a period of suffering because God has established the consequence. I could make my choice, but I couldn’t choose the consequence. But I’m glad God hasn’t thrown me away, that God still loves me and has a plan for me in my life.
And he goes on and says, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” I think the King James says to bring an end to what you’re going through right now. God sees a season of consequences and it’s 70 years; but in all that His loving kindness is seen, His covenant faithfulness is there. So it’s kind of like when Daniel begins to pray, he just reaffirms. Do you know what it means to “bless the Lord?” The word “bless” means to speak good things about Him. I think what he’s doing is he’s blessing the Lord in his prayer here. He’s blessing, saying, “God, You’re a faithful God. You’re a God that can be trusted regardless. I have great respect for who You are.”
He confesses the sin of his people as his own
Secondly, look what he does in his prayer. In verses 5-6 he begins to confess the sins of the people, now watch this, as his own sin. Look out now. He begins to confess the sins of the people as his own sin. Thirty-two times in chapter 9 he associates himself with the people of Israel. He calls it “we have sinned,” “we have sinned,” “we have sinned.” Wait a minute, Daniel; do you understand what you’re saying? You’re living a godly life; you’re doing everything you know to do to serve God every day. What are you doing saying “we”? You see, Daniel never put himself above anybody. He saw himself as a part of a whole and he began to confess their sin as his sin.
Now, folks, I want to tell you something. The problem we have many times today in our country—and one of the reasons we’re not seeing anything different happen—is because so many people become bitter and they become angry, and they begin to point their finger and say, “It’s your fault, it’s your fault!” And they begin to attack “them” when it’s really “us.” We’re all a part of it. Man, when you start seeing the abortion clinics open—and I hate to even mention the word. You know and I know that abortion is wrong. Anybody that believes the Word of God should not have an argument about that—but when you start seeing them open and you start seeing the pro-choice groups being noticed on television, you start seeing some of the atrocity that’s going on in our society. Stop thinking it’s “their” fault. It’s “our” fault. We’re all a part of this country and we ought to get on our face before God and confess the sin of others as “our sin.”
That’s what he was doing. He wasn’t saying it’s “your fault,” he was saying it’s “our fault.” We have sinned against You. How had they sinned? Well, he tells you in verse 5. He says, “we have sinned;” the word “sin” means we have gone astray. We have missed the point; we have missed the mark of what You had for us. We first of all have “committed iniquity.” And that means we have acted in a way that is perverse to God’s way. Secondly, we have “acted wickedly,” and that means we have done what we knew was wrong. They had sinned against knowledge, folks. They knew better. They had not sinned in ignorance, they had sinned against knowledge. That’s what it means to act wickedly. “And rebelled,” and the word “rebel” means as a nation they had simply defied God’s authority. “God, don’t You call us, we’ll call You.” Oh, what a sad scene in a person’s life.
And how had they rebelled? It gives you two things there. First of all they turned “aside from Thy commandments,” which means simply they didn’t want God’s authority in their life. Secondly, they turned aside from God’s ordinances, which means they didn’t want God’s wisdom in their life. Because of turning aside of God’s commandments and His ordinances, they had rebelled against God.
In verse 16 even takes it a step further. “Moreover,” now remember, he’s a prophet, but he says, “we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets.” And I wonder if that wasn’t spawned by the fact that he was studying from Jeremiah when he got this burden on his heart? Maybe somehow he felt even guilty himself by not paying attention to what Jeremiah had said to the people and letting them know exactly why they were in the situation they were in. He said, “We have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.”
Friend, listen: don’t ever think of yourself more highly that you ought to think. You and I are part of the whole and if our nation goes down and has to go through consequences, we’re going to suffer those consequences. It may not be that you or I individually have done anything to forsake God in our life, but at the same time if our nation forsakes it, we’re a part of that nation. And when we come to pray we don’t come to cast stones. We don’t come to be bitter, we come to get on our face and sa,y “God, we have sinned.” You know, one of the things that eats me alive in Daniel is that it just won’t let me alone. It just eats my lunch. I don’t pray like I ought to pray for our government. We prayed for the government of Romania that their elections would be what they need to be. That God would allow His people to have an open door to preach the Word. How much time do we spend praying for our nation?
“Oh Brother Wayne I spend a lot of time fighting it!” But how much time do you spend praying for it? We have sinned, we have sinned. Nobody’s fault but our own. Daniel showed great respect for who God is. He understood that whatever He does is right. You don’t have to question it. Whatever God allows is right. He understands that. But secondly he confesses the sin of his people as if it were his own.
He acknowledges that they got what they deserved
And then the third thing he does, he acknowledges that they had gotten what they deserved. He just sort of inches forward, gets a little deeper each time we get to a new paragraph. He just says, “God, we have gotten what we deserved,” verses 7-10. Look at verse 7, “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord,” again reaffirming the fact of the character of God. “God, righteousness doesn’t belong to us; we have not acted that way. But God, righteousness belongs to You. You are consistent, You are just, Your character is impeccable. We’ll never doubt You ever with whatever goes on on this earth.
Friend, there’s a lot of people today angry at God because of their circumstance. And, friend, you’re on a dead-end street if you’re that way. Because whatever God has allowed in your life or whatever God has initiated in your life, however you want to say it, God’s still in control. Whatever it is, don’t ever blame Him for it. Don’t ever blame Him for it. He is righteous and He is just. We’re here to lift up His character. But he says to us belongs “open shame.” And that’s exactly what had happened to Israel; that’s exactly what had happened. Publicly they were laughed at. They had made a mockery out of a covenant with God. Their city was in shambles, they had no testimony, no witness to anybody. And he says, “to You, righteousness, but to us, open shame.”
Now there were several things that had caused that. Verse 7 says that they had done unfaithful deeds. They point back to their forefathers. They say, “O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds.” In other words, they wouldn’t have been driven out had they not disobeyed God. God is a just God and He says, “If you sin against Me,” He had already told them specifically what would take place: they’d be driven out of their land. And God did exactly what He said.
So he said, “God, we deserve open shame, we deserve everything that we get.” Verse 8, what had happened in verse 8 is they had sinned, “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee.” Verse 9, what had they done? Because they rebelled against Him: “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him.” Why would he say that? God continued to be compassionate and forgiving even in their rebellion against Him.
Verse 10, “nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God,” now watch this carefully, “to walk in His teachings which he set before us through His servants the prophets.” Do you see what he’s doing? He starts off and affirms the character of God. “God, You can be trusted, You’re bigger than this problem, You’re a personal God, You’re concerned. But God, we know that whatever You do is in keeping with Your covenant. You’re a faithful God, and, God, You also show loving kindness and we cry out for that loving kindness. In the midst of judgment we know that it’s there and we need it. But we also need that loving kindness.” And secondly he confesses his sin as the people’s sin: their sin is his. And then thirdly he acknowledges that they have gotten what they deserved.
He remembers the faithfulness of God to his word
But the fourth thing that he does in verses 11-14, he begins to remember the faithfulness of God to His Word. In other words, he’s just taking us one inch at a time. He starts off saying “God, Your character is right.” Then he goes, “Righteousness belongs to You.” And now he’s going to show you why. He’s going to show you that God has told them exactly what would happen if they disobeyed Him.
In verse 11, “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Thy truth.”
Good night! Let me just see if I can get this out. There’s so much he’s saying here. He’s reminding them of the covenant they were under, the conditions of that covenant. Now, folks, when I go to this don’t you dare shift gears on me. This is to them, not to us. This is to them. But look what He says to them and look how He honored exactly what He said would happen. He tells them so clearly what’s going to take place. Leviticus 26:23-24. He’s just basically saying if you’re going to sin against Me, you’re going to bring consequence down on yourself. He says in verse 23, “And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins.”
Well, look at the contrast to this thing over in verse 40. He tells them something and this is what Daniel is remembering and he’s bringing it back before God. “God, You did what You said You’d do, but You also said something else.” Verse 40, “If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers,” that’s what he’s doing! “in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me,” verse 42, “then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as and I will remember the land.” You see, part of the curse was, if you disobey Me, you’ll be taken out of the land. And, friend, He tells them “if you’ll come back to Me, if you’ll confess, not only am I a God of judgment, I’m a God of loving kindness and if you’ll come back and obey Me and confess your sins and confess the sins of your forefathers, then I will remember your land.”
What’s Daniel doing? He’s doing exact that. He’s depending upon that faithfulness and loving kindness of God. Look in Deuteronomy 28 and you see Moses reiterating this to the people before they go into the Promised Land. He tells them basically if you obey, you’ll be blessed; if you disobey there will be a curse. Verses 1-3: “Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.”
And so he begins to go on and talk about the blessings they’ll get if they obey God. He’s already told them this, but look at verse 15, the contrast: “But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” And then it gives you a list, the whole chapter long, and even spills over to chapter 29, of what will happen if you disobey God. Don’t make the mistake and drag that into the New Covenant and say God said the same thing to us. That’s what He said to them. And Daniel is saying, “God, You said this to us and You have done exactly like You said. Your character is impeccable. This judgment that we’re in right now, we deserve every bit of it. You have done exactly what You said that You would do.”
Now, folks, I’m trying to drive a point home. Stop blaming God! Folks, there are so many people that are bitter. “God, why did You do this to me?” Friend, you come back before Him and you bless Him and you recognize that He’s a righteous God. Whatever He allows or does in your life is just, friend. He is sovereignly in control, and until you begin to pray for those others that are around you that are causing some of the problems that you’re in, you begin to identify yourself with them, you’re no better than they are. I’m no better than they are. I’m no better than the pagan judge that makes some of these dumb decisions about the abortion situation: I’m no better than he is. I’m just saved by grace. By the grace of God I’d have that mindset. And we come before God and we come humbly and we come with grace in our hearts and we come flat-out before Him and we say, “God, we have sinned. What we’re seeing around us we deserve.”
But now, let’s come on. He allows us for that plea for mercy. He allows us to plea upon the loving kindness of God. I want you to see this as we wrap this up, because the motive of his prayer now finally comes out. Friend, why is he praying? Is he praying so that he’ll have a better deal in life? Is he praying so that he can go back home and forget all this captivity and enjoy life for a while? Buy him a motor home and see America? Is that what he’s praying for? Is he praying so that life will let up on him and get rid of the pressure off of him? Is that why he’s praying that prayer?
“God, in Your loving kindness, please turn away Your wrath.” Why does he pray that? And now you see why God is going to answer him. Go on down to verse 15, “And now, O Lord our God, who has brought Thy people out of the land of Egypt,” boy, he starts remembering something, “with a mighty hand and hast made a name for Thyself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us.” Listen, they had lost their testimony. People laughed at Israel because of talking about their God.
“So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications, and for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary.” You see, his whole key here is not him, it’s his holy city, it’s his people who have lost their witness. He says, “O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own,” God, I’m not coming before You because I’m somebody, “but on account of Thy great compassion” I’m appealing to You, God. Your compassion, show it to me.
And look at verse 19, “Oh Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake,” not for mine, for Yours! “O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” Do you know what the motive of his prayer was, bless his sweet heart? His motive was the restoring of the testimony of his people. The motive was for God’s glory to come back into his people. It was not so that he could have a better deal in life, it was not so that he could go back home. As a matter of fact, history tells us he didn’t even go back with them, folks. That wasn’t the motive of his prayer. The motive of his prayer was that God could once again be glorified in his people.
Folks, I want to tell you something. Are you concerned with that anymore? How do you pray anymore? Do you pray that some of these things that are so wrong in our country, that they be changed? Why do you pray that way? Do you pray so that the Christians in America can once again glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Is that the burden of your prayer? Is that the real motive of your prayer, or is it some self-centered motive that somehow you can feel like you’ve proved a point or you can come out and have a better way of life? That’s not it; that’s not it. “God, I pray that You’ll have mercy because Thy people are a reproach to others. We’ve brought reproach to your name, and God, do it for Thy sake, not for mine, but for Thy sake.”
You know, several years ago when we started praying for this church and we had a group of men that would come down, several weeks went by as we prayed and God did some marvelous things in us. Taught us, first of all, that we didn’t know what we were doing. First night we spent 45 minutes repeating ourselves ten times and we ended up in the donut shop until 2:30 in the morning because we’d told our wives we were going to pray all night long. One night we started praying for revival. That was the key, that was the motive of our prayer: God, would You bring revival in this church.
And, I mean, it was like the gates of heaven shut down on us, and I can’t explain that to you except for the men that were here praying. We began to discern, it was almost like God was shouting down from heaven, why are you praying? So you can have a bigger church? So you can brag a little bit more? So something can go on at the church? What’s so special about it? And you know what God brought us to? To confess that as sin and we stopped praying for the church and we just started praying for this city and this nation and for the people around us. And, you know, it was like a ton lifted off of us and God’s spirit just moved into that prayer meeting. I’ve heard some people say recently, “Boy, there’s some godly pastors come into town.” I’ll tell you why. I think one of the reasons is because I know that nine years ago a bunch of men on Friday nights, all night long, began to pray for these pulpits and we began to pray that God would bring godly men in here. Why? Not so that the church could be glorified, not so the Southern Baptists could get a name for themselves, but so that Jesus could be glorified once again in His people. That’s what our prayers were all about.
If you’re praying just for your family, just so that you can have a better way of living until the day that you die, you’ve missed the whole point. You pray so that God can once again use the people who call Him by name, that the church would not be a reproach to other people. The motive must be God’s motive, “for Thy sake, O God, deliver us. Not for our sake, for Thy sake, that Your witness might be seen again.” We’ve talked more people out of joining this church than we have to join it. Friend, we’re not building a mega church. Our hearts’ desire is to become a lighthouse and to become an encouragement to other churches. We’ve had other people come over here and stay forever it seems like. And they get their directions and the Word in their life and they go back to their churches. Praise God for that kind of thing.
Who are we? We’re not going to get some crown when we get to heaven because we had so many people on Sunday. We’re here to be an encouragement and when we pray, it must be for all of God’s people and when we see the consequences of sin, we must say, “Oh God, we have sinned.” Stop pointing a finger at the government. Stop pointing a finger at some church that doesn’t preach the Word, and realize when God’s name is under reproach friend, you represent God’s name.
Tell you one thing: I couldn’t point a finger at anybody this morning. I just want to go crawl into a corner somewhere. Why do you pray? You know, one of the things, I’m getting older, but you know what’s killing me? The older I get, the more I realize of the filthiness of my flesh. The more I realize. And you know what scares me? It’s the times I’ve preached out of a predetermined fleshly mindset without really letting the Spirit of God speak to my mind and my heart. How do you study? How many books have you read about something? You’re going to jump in somebody else’s tent, so you’ve already predetermined what God’s Word says. How do you pray?
I went to a seminar one time on prayer—probably did more damage to my life than anything else. I learned the five things that ought to be in every prayer and I came back and tried to do that and I couldn’t remember which one went first and for weeks I was in bondage to prayer, a system. And I’m learning, friend, to get out from that bondage. Man, just get on your face before God and say, “God, who in the world am I to point a finger at anybody.” I love what someone told me one time. He said, “Wayne, if God’s ever going to use you, be the wrong one. Never be the right one. Be the wrong one.” I said, “What if I’m not wrong?” He said, “That’s what you think. Just giving your flesh the benefit of the doubt, go on, confess it to be wrong to start with.” That’s usually the place, folks.
Oh boy, Daniel is killing me. That God’s glory might be seen once again.